Lessons Learned: An Update from the Farm to Fork Ambassadors

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Students come to Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture with a passion for food, agriculture, and learning. The institute provides a 6 or 12 week course that teaches methods of organic and hydroponic specialty crop production. Many students also come with a future business plan in mind. During the course, the Office of Farm to Fork asked our Farm to Fork Ambassadors to share lessons learned and any new ideas or modifications they have made to their plans. This blog post shares their journey, as students review the materials they have learned, compare to their current project concepts, and prepare for the capstone event, where they present  to an evaluation panel, comprised of local farmers, nonprofit groups, and business incubators. Evaluators measure each student’s project viability, motivating students to work out budget kinks and practice their pitches for weeks ahead of time.

Michael Lupacchino

bitter melonOne of the lessons learned during the training is niche marketing and targeting for the type of product one is going to sell to his or her consumers. I chose the bitter melon for my business plan because I see the potential for economic benefit for the farmer. By targeting niche neighborhood and businesses that use the bitter melon, one can make this plant a profitable crop. Because I’m Filipino, I know how hard it is to find a constant supply of fresh bitter melon in commercial supermarkets in the United States. Bitter Melon is a niche crop that requires a niche consumer, but there is a growing Asian demographic in this country.
The state of California has one of the largest demographics of Filipinos within the United States. Based on the competition, bitter melon would be a profitable crop if grown in the farming areas of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco regions of California. If grown in the Central Valley of California, crops could be sold in 4 regions with large Filipino communities (San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas). The state with surprising potential is Northern Alaska and Anchorage, Alaska regions. One or two green houses in Alaska could possibly supply the bitter melon demand and make a profit for the Anchorage region of Alaska. A feasibility study needs to be conducted before submitting a business plan for growing bitter melon in a climate controlled green house in Alaska. Bitter melon needs temperatures between 75 to 80 degrees to flourish. The short growing season and the Alaskan temperatures could prevent this crop from growing when exposed to the Alaskan weather and elements.

Joe Laguna

strawberries basketThis week I will be using the material I learned on how to grow berries, which I will grow. After going to the farmer’s market for months now, watching the vendor next to us, it is obvious the strawberry market is more than good. Fruit trees have always been very important to our family and way of life. We plan to have peach, apple, oranges, apricot and cherry to start with.
The business plan lessons can now take center stage. It is rather nerve racking, knowing that so much can be accomplished with a good business plan and the confidence in things I’m learning about the farming business.
We went to the OC conference today and the main message I received was sustainability and urban farming. I learned there are several high schools in the Orange County area that have a garden on campus. I think that is great. Kids should need to know where their food comes from. I also met with Dr. Nat Storey of Bright Agrotech. I have been watching his YOUTUBE channel for 4 or 5 years now. I think his aquaponics system is great and he is taking steps in teaching us all about closed loop sustainability.
With a week to go in the class and most of us chomping at the bit to get started, it’s good to know I’m running with the right crowd.

Dara Morgen

seedlingMy current studies have again helped to reshape my plans moving forward. As I mentioned in my first post, my plan changed from a therapy farm to a focus on raising seedings (aka plugs) and bee farming. Upon learning more, I am focusing towards the specialty crop of organic honey and products made with beeswax. There are two issues that I see as obstacles when raising honey farms. The first being predators. As discussed in class, there are many predators of the honeybee. The hunters are praying mantises, wasps, hornets, and aggressive parasites such as mites. Specific geographical locations have high populations of these predators, such as my home state of Texas, which is one of my secondary farm locations after proving the concept within California.

The second issue that I have learned about is the extensive record keeping required for beekeepers. There are bee brokers, owner-lessee, farm managers, pest control advisers, and pesticide applicators that need to be considered. Each year, beekeepers in California are required to register their hive locations with the county agriculture commissioners and should notify the commissioners of substantial movement to receive notifications for pesticide applications. This helps the grower to know of other hives within a one-mile radius of their farm. While this will help with collecting data on the supply/demand aspect of the farm and better forecast profits, this seems like a tremendous amount of work for a first time beekeeper. Hopefully, I am just letting my initial nerves of venturing out on my own get the best of me.

In regards to the best practices guide, I have also learned that the best way to learn beekeeping is to work with an experienced mentor who has successfully kept bees in your area for many years. Through Archi’s Acres, I have meet several classmates that are current beekeepers. This relationship has allowed me to learn from them, to better assess the needs of establishing a farm, as well as helping me to determine the best location within southern California to establish my farm. Murritea, Riverside or Temecula are at the tip of my list. I am also learning about “treatment free” beekeeping, which has an extremely low yield. In addition, I am also learning to practice good bee husbandry.

Alyssa Ponce

bok choy 625Throughout the four weeks of my six week course I’ve learned what hydroponic farming is, the types of systems used and the importance of understanding market demand. After multiple changes, I’ve finally decided to focus my business plan on organic baby bok choy cabbage and baby kale. For my production, I plan to build a hoop house utilizing an active nutrient film technique (NFT).

Hydroponic farming is the growing of plants in sand, gravel, or liquid with added nutrients but without soil. I’ve learned at Archi’s Acres on our Farm Days the first thing to do is check the water. By using an electric pen, it helps to provide us with the pH levels, electrical conductivity (ec) and temperatures in the water reservoirs. The next thing we do is enter the greenhouse and observe all the lines to ensure none are clogged. We check lines before and after class because any clogged lines can put a crop at risk.

Inside my hoop house I plan to grow organic baby bok choy, cabbage, and baby kale. Bok choy is ready in about 30 days and harvesting can be done all season long. Kale is ready 70 to 80 days from seed and can also be available all year round. Bok choy and kale are in high demand in local restaurants in San Diego County, so that might be a market I want to target. I have learned a lot in the last four weeks and will learn more to enhance my business plans.

This post is part of a series featuring Farm to Fork Ambassadors from Archi’s Institute for Sustainable Agriculture. Students chosen by the Office of Farm to Fork will share their stories and the journey many like them are taking to create a new career path in farming after leaving the military in three blog posts here on Tales from the Field. Many of the students are exploring niche markets in California by developing business plans to grow less traditional fruits and vegetables or to support often overlooked populations.

Building Partnerships: Training Child Nutrition Directors on School Gardens, Local Produce, and Student Engagement

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The Office of Farm to Fork held its third and final Child Nutrition Director Training at Encinitas Unified School District last month. The training, hosted by Lea Bonelli, Director of Nutrition Services, shed light on techniques to incorporate more fresh local produce, including fast-scratch recipes, discussed working with school gardens, and shared strategies on creating student buy-in.

Bonelli focused the day on how she has trained staff to work with fresh produce, largely from the Farm Lab, a district run farm and student educational center. Purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables can be a daunting task for school districts. Items often require processing prior to serving, which presents a challenge for busy food service staff with often limited skillsets and time. Giving staff the correct skillset and protocols allows them to quickly, confidently, and safely prepare student meals.

During the training, attendees visited the district’s central kitchen and saw firsthand how staff prepare fresh student meals, including Farm Lab romaine for the salad bar and pizza made with sauce from last season’s tomatoes. During the summer months, Encinitas staff freeze large portions of fresh vegetables to be used throughout the school year. Staff also demonstrated techniques for preparing fast-scratch meals using commodity products, like corn and beef. Attendees were then served a typical student lunch that featured Farm Lab romaine, local kiwis, and pizza made with fresh dough.

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The day wrapped up with a visit to the Farm Lab for a chance to see the fields where the romaine was grown. Director Min Michelove welcomed the group and discussed how she and Bonelli have worked together to make the farm an integral part of Encinitas student meals and education.
“When you give students the opportunity to get their hands in the dirt, learn about the growing process and watch as the produce grows, they are much more likely to try these vegetables on the salad bar that they may typically not choose. Students are more invested in the food they are eating and I think this helps cultivate long term healthy eating habits,” remarked Bonelli.

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Learning from peers is key to advancing farm to school programs. A roadblock to one district, can be fixed with an applicable solution by another. Giving food service directors the opportunity to expand their knowledge base and network with other directors has long-term benefits for farm to school programs and students. CDFA was happy to coordinate these trainings and aid in improving farm to school communication throughout California.

Office of Farm to Fork Celebrates Ag Day with Family and Natomas Unified School District

Students on Ag Day
Natomas Unified School District culinary arts students dice kohlrabi for a kale, broccoli, and kohlrabi slaw they prepared for Ag Day attendees.

CDFA hosted Ag Day at the Capitol last week, despite heavy rain earlier that morning. The annual event presents an opportunity to showcase the diversity of California agriculture for state legislative members and the general public.

Geared toward education, some 50 booths exhibited a wide variety of agriculture, ranging from the California Beef Council serving tri-tip sandwiches to FFA students proudly displaying baby goats and chickens. Area school children also attended the event in hopes of learning about agriculture and the people who grow our food.

The Office of Farm to Fork teamed up with Natomas Unified School District’s Food Services to showcase fresh California produce at their booth. The culinary arts students served a broccoli and kohlrabi slaw – a recipe that could be served at school lunch – showing off their culinary skills as they prepared the dish on site. Their program strives to provide marketable training to students prior to high school graduation.

For CDFA staff, Ag Day is also an opportunity to bring our children to work and offer them a glimpse of what we do each day. Activities began at the department’s headquarters on N Street and included a story hour with Undersecretary Jim Houston and pictures with a giant tomato and the food pyramid.

California is the leading agricultural producer in the U.S. Because of this richness it is important to continually educate the public on the industries that support our state and feed our country.

Students interviewing classmates
Kohlrabi pamphlet and slaw
Mexican performers

Working with the Land and the Community: Fort Bragg Child Nutrition Director Training

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The Office of Farm to Fork held the second of three Child Nutrition Director Trainings in Fort Bragg, California last month. The training highlighted the small district’s unique relationship with local farmers and their commitment to providing regular garden education and training.

Rain and road closures did not stop the 17 attendees who traveled to Mendocino from as far away as Plumas to attend the full day training at Fort Bragg Unified School District. Pilar Gray, the district’s Child Nutrition Director, discussed past, present and future projects, including the challenges they often face as a remote district. Pilar takes advantage of their proximity to the sea and fertile coastal land to improve the variety of local products offered in their meal program, often serving produce from one of the four school gardens. In addition to Pilar’s presentation, a representative from the Mendo-Lake Food Hub presented on the nonprofit’s operation, which aggregates local produce in Ukiah and distributes to places like Fort Bragg. Districts that are off the beaten path are often limited to a few distributors who will deliver in their area. The food hub allows them to reach farms that might otherwise be out of reach.

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Pilar Gray, Fort Bragg Unified School District Child Nutrition Director

Fort Bragg student meals are also further enhanced by a connection to the Noyo Food Forest, a small farm located at the high school. The nonprofit works with students and the community to promote positive changes to Mendocino food systems. During the training, Kyra Rice, Noyo Garden Manager, led attendees through the site and described the ongoing projects and educational components of working in the garden, including the compost system, beehive, and various greenhouses. The site is able to sell produce directly to the schools for use in the school meals. In addition, Noyo also grows and sells some Harvest of the Month items to the local supermarket, Harvest Market, who then donates the produce back to the Garden Nutrition Education program for the Harvest of the Month activities.

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Kyra Rice, Noyo Food Forest Garden Manager

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Not only does the garden help students learn more about their own food, it also acts as a means of career education. Once a busy fishing town, Fort Bragg Unified School District looks to prepare students for the now bustling tourism industry which supports a large percentage of the population. Through robust agricultural and culinary arts programs, students leave school with a skillset to move them ahead in the local workforce. “In the Learning Garden at Fort Bragg High School, Noyo Food Forest provides paid internships for teens to learn hands-on the business of sustainable organic based agriculture. They are engaged in all aspects of crop production from seed to sales at the local farmers’ market. Fort Bragg High also has an amazing culinary arts program in which students prepare to fill the local demand for employees with culinary training, restaurant management, and event promotion & supervision skills,” remarked Gray. This program includes a full spectrum ‘Farm to Table’ class, which partners with the Future Farmers of America & Agriculture department. In the school’s Agriculture Department students study California agriculture, agricultural business, technologies, natural resources, and animal, plant & soil sciences.

After touring Noyo, attendees were treated to a high school lunchtime favorite: fish tacos, featuring “second catch” Grenadier or Arrowtooth topped with cabbage and cilantro grown at Noyo. Often caught along with ling and rock cod, who garner a higher market price, the fish were traditionally thrown back but now serve as a low priced protein for the school and a great way to further support the community.

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Staff preparing fish tacos topped with cilantro grown at the Noyo Food Forest.

As the day wound down, the group visited the school garden sites that have become an integral part of student life in Fort Bragg. Julie Castillo, Garden and Nutrition Teacher, presented her roadmap to garden development and the solutions to many of the challenges presented over the years. One major accomplishment was bringing Castillo on as a full time staff member. As a credentialed teacher, the district uses her time with students in the garden as teacher preparation time. She also described her active approach to applying for grants and working with the community to fundraise for garden improvements. One project involves students collecting, packaging, drawing, and labeling seed packages that are then sold at local businesses to support garden initiatives.

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Julie Castillo, Garden and Nutrition Teacher

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Seed packets designed by students are sold at local businesses to help support garden efforts.

Fort Bragg is testament to how districts adapt to their location, community, and local resources. While no district is exactly the same, districts can learn from one another’s successes and take ideas away to implement in their own programs for their own unique environments. The 17 attendees came away with new ideas that they are ready to adapt to their own districts and communities.








Building a Farm to School Program from Scratch: Turlock Child Nutrition Director Training

turlock 3 625Districts across California are improving not only the quality and variety of food served in school meals, but also the availability of local products and the messaging used to communicate regional products to students. Turlock Unified School District has forged the way for such efforts. The district hosted the first of three Child Nutrition Director Trainings on February 3rd to help other school districts follow suit. Organized by the Office of Farm to Fork, the trainings aim to highlight programs that have successfully increased their local fruit and vegetable purchasing and bring together food service directors looking to advance their farm to school programs.

Despite torrential rain, the training saw a strong turnout of food service professionals eager to learn from Scott Soiseth, Turlock’s Child Nutrition Director. Within the food service community, Soiseth is regarded as a pioneer in improving school meal service with his focus on procuring seasonal products for mainly scratch cooking. School districts in attendance, ranged in size from small districts, like Plumas Lake Elementary School with only 1,200 students and a 40% free and reduced population to large districts with high free and reduced priced populations, like Lodi Unified School District with 30,000 students of which 66% are free and reduced.


Turlock Unified School District’s Child Nutrition Director, Scott Soiseth, shares his vision for his district’s food service program.

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Fruit packaged and branded with the real.fresh logo

The day commenced with breakfast, including local fruit packaged with Turlock’s real.fresh brand and presentations featuring Soiseth’s wealth of knowledge of farm to school practices. Soiseth spoke specifically to the effort he placed on developing a successful marketing plan to properly communicate the hard work behind each meal. He also discussed his journey into locally procuring for his school meal program and how he relies heavily on the DoD Fresh program to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. Soiseth reserved a portion of the day’s time to discuss his involvement in the USDA Pilot Project for Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables, which allows him to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local producers. Addison Ford, part of the Office of Farm to Fork, also presented on the California Farmer Marketplace, a website developed to connect food service staff to California farmers and aid in the procurement of local produce.


Attendees visiting the future central kitchen for Turlock Unified School District.

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During the day, the group was able to visit the current central kitchen and view the machine that slices and packages fruit for school meals.

During the day, the group visited the current central kitchen and was able to see the machine that individually packages fruit and a cafeteria branded with real.fresh messaging. The group also drove outside town and visited the school’s 5 acre farm, where the district recently planted a one acre vegetable plot and fruit and nut trees. Produce from the farm will be served in school meals. Finally the group toured Turlock’s future central kitchen. Soiseth took the opportunity to explain his vision and the journey he has taken to achieving it. The site will include a space for an aggregation center and a dedicated space for teaching students, families, and food service staff about nutrition education and scratch cooking. Attendees were served a typical school lunch at the site which included local spinach, romaine, and kiwis. “It’s great to see the full breadth of what the district is doing to improve meal quality and participation numbers”, remarked one attendee.

As the day ended, attendees left with a newfound knowledge from the presentations and site visits, as well as many new connections within their professional field. The Office of Farm to Fork will host a final Child Nutrition Director training in Encinitas on February 24th.

California State Employees Donate more than 750,000 pounds

Employees from the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services present employees from the State Board of Equalization with the award for largest total poundage last night at the State Employees Food Drive wrap party.

Employees from the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services present employees from the State Board of Equalization with the award for largest total poundage last night at the State Employees Food Drive wrap party.

Totals are now in for the California State Employees Food Drive, which set the ambitious goal to raise 750,000 pounds of food for the 2016/17 food drive, knowing that employees are eager to help Californians in need during the holidays. Using the theme, Giving is in Season Year-Round, the drive kicked off in late September to help increase contributions and spanned until early February.

The Office of Farm to Fork coordinated the food drive from late September to early February, along with their partners at the Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and 94 different agencies statewide. Across the state over 764,000 pounds of food were donated, surpassing this year’s goal of 750,000 pounds and clearly demonstrating employees desire to give back to their communities. Outside of the Sacramento area over 100,000 pounds of food were donated to local food banks and pantries, eventually ending up on the tables of Californians throughout the state.

The need in California is substantial. According to the California Association of Food Banks, 5.4 million Californians contend with food insecurity, the occasional or constant lack of access to the food one needs for a healthy, active life. Of these Californians, more than two-million are children.

To continue momentum and remind employees of this need throughout the three and a half month drive, events were held periodically across the state, including a kickoff day in late September where employees donated over 450 pounds of fresh produce at the Capitol Mall Farmers Market in Sacramento to benefit the Reverse Food Truck, a project of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The event aimed to take advantage of the great produce items still available during the fall in California. As Thanksgiving rolled around 42,882 pounds of turkey (the equivalent of over 3,000 birds) were donated during the annual Turkey Drive and the Run to Feed the Hungry in Sacramento held on November 24th raised $18,127 in registrations and 10,869 pounds of food. Secretary Karen Ross also hosted two “Coffee with the Secretary” events which gave employees a chance to donate money or food, drink a cup of coffee, and chat with Ross in a relaxed festive environment.

“I am impressed each year with the level of compassion and commitment that employees display when they donate to the food drive,” said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross, chair of the food drive. “Food brings people together, in particular during the holidays, when families and friends gather around the table. This effort is so important in helping to make that happen for families that may need a little boost.”

food drive 3Each year the State Employees Food Drive hosts a wrap up party and awards are given to highlight the commitment agencies have taken to make the drive a success. For the 2016/17 drive, the Board of Equalization received the award for the largest overall donation poundage totaling 166,889 pounds. Two new award categories were also added this year for most creative fundraiser and the biggest increase in donations from the previous year. CalEPA took home this first category with their Dream it, Built it, Give it competition, where employees built structures out of food donations. Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta Conservancy took home the award for the largest increase by upping donations from 18 pounds to 912 pounds since the 2015/16 drive.

Final weights and totals for the State Employees Food Drive will be posted to the website this week following the drive’s wrap up party. This year’s success is a testament to how hardworking and passionate our California State Employees are to helping those less fortunate in our communities.

Lodi Unified School District Hosts California Thursdays Celebration

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Members of the Lodi’s nutrition services team at Delta Sierra Middle School in Stockton

On Thursday, January 26th, a hearty and fragrant Italian soup, Pasta e Fagioli was on the lunch menu at Lodi Unified School District. It was freshly prepared and made with California-grown food, including whole grain pasta and heirloom beans grown at a ranch farmed continuously since 1855 by a California family. Students devoured it.

This tasty meal – like many other delicious, kid-tested recipes served across the state – is part of the California Thursdays program. A collaboration between the nonprofit Center for Ecoliteracy and a network of public school districts, the program supports improving school food by preparing meals using real ingredients sourced from California, including proteins, grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy.

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Nancy Rostomily, Lodi Unified School District’s Food Service Director, with her Nutrition Services team on Collective Action Day

It’s a big effort with a big network. With seventy-one districts, including more than 2,900 schools, 1.85 million students, and 11,600 nutrition service staff, the California Thursdays Network collectively serves over 309 million meals each year. That is almost one third of the state’s nearly one billion school meals.

Lunch on January 26th, however, was special. It was a “Collective Action Day,” where the network commits to serving their California Thursdays meals on the same day to demonstrate collective impact and to celebrate the abundance of California agriculture. On this particular Thursday, more than 500,000 students around the state enjoyed a tasty, healthy California Thursdays lunch.

Nancy Rostomily, Lodi Unified School District’s Director of Nutrition Services, and her team had been planning their Collective Action Day celebration for months. In addition to the procurement and menu development necessary to create a new dish that would be rolled out to 58 schools, Nancy also invited farmers, producers, and distributors to join them for the day. Many were directly responsible for providing the food on the lunchtime tray. Students had a chance to meet “their” farmers and understand exactly where their food had come from.

Special guests, from elected officials to celebrity chefs, also visited California Thursdays schools across the state. Lodi Unified School District was honored to host Jim Houston, Undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and Kamal Bagri, Assistant Agriculture Commissioner for San Joaquin County.

“It’s great to see the level of commitment everyone has taken to make California Thursdays a success. There is a lot of hard work that goes into scratch cooking, but it is worth the time and effort,” remarked Houston.

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Lodi Unified School District students celebrate California Thursdays in Stockton

The celebration was about more than local food and healthy students. “Freshly prepared, served with care” was the Collective Action Day theme, to honor the many dedicated nutrition services staff who have a hand in creating these meals. Nick La Mattina, a Regional Supervisor for the district, said, “It is amazing to be able to trace your food to the source. California has so much wonderful fresh food to offer. Why settle for something that was picked early, robbing essential nutrients, just to allow for time in transit?”

While developing their Pasta e Fagioli soup (pasta and beans), Nancy and her team certainly kept the source in mind. With whole grain pasta from Community Grains and heirloom beans from Mohr-Fry Ranch, just down the road in Lodi, it could hardly be more fresh and local. The dish embodied the multiple “wins” of California Thursdays: to nourish students, steward environmental sustainability, support the local economy, and connect students to their local food systems.

Like so many others around the state, students left Collective Action Day nourished, engaged, and excited about their next California Thursdays meal.

California’s commitment to reducing food waste

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Californians throw away nearly 6 million tons of food scraps or food waste each year. This represents about 18 percent of all the material that goes to landfills. In order for California to reach its goal of 75% source reduction, recycling and composting, food waste must be addressed.

California’s Mandatory Commercial Organics Recycling law requires businesses to recycle their organic waste. The links below provide more information on food waste management as well as examples of how various business groups and public entities are managing food waste.

Everyone has a role in saving resources and wasting less food. Creative food rescue projects like the UglyFruitAndVeg Campaign work to save healthy fruits and vegetables from becoming waste. Rather than throwing away excess food, find ways to manage it more thoughtfully, such as working with groups to ensure that it goes to disadvantaged people, and composting for soil restoration. To further educate the public about food waste, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Ad Council have initiated a food waste reduction campaign known as Savethefood.com. Their web site offers a complete media kit with posters, videos, social media postings, and more.

CalRecycle conducted two workshops in support of a proposed Food Waste Prevention and Rescue grant program; follow the progress of that program.

CalRecycle has been working to reduce food waste since at least 2002, when its predecessor agency conducted a Food Diversion Summit.

Hotels/Restaurants – Information for restaurants on managing food scraps.

Households – Information for households on managing food scraps.

Schools – Information for colleges/universities and K-12 on managing food scraps.

US EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy – Ranks food donations to feed hungry people as a top priority to help reduce wasted food.

Stadiums/Special Events – Information for stadiums, fairs, festivals, and catered events on managing food scraps.

Health Care Industry – Information for the health care industry on managing food scraps.

Grocery Stores – Information for grocery stores on donating edible food to disadvantaged communities.

***Cross-posted from CDFA’s Planting Seeds Blog***

Increased focus on food security at UC Merced

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UC Merced is relaunching its branch of the Blum Center for Developing Economies with a focus on food security, with a hope to make it a hub for food-security-related research and outreach.

Economics Professor Kurt Schnier, with the School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts, and Karina Diaz Rios, a nutrition specialist in the UC Cooperative Extension, will lead the rejuvenated Blum Center, with administrative help from the Health Sciences Research Institute (HSRI).

“We want to create a community on campus to address issues of food security,” Schnier said. “We want to help engage students, faculty members and the community to have a direct effect on people’s lives.”

Merced County’s economy is largely based around agriculture, yet many people there do not have food security. The food insecurity rate in the area is 15.5 percent, according to the Merced County Food Bank, compared to a statewide average of 13.9 percent. Nearly 30 percent of those considered food insecure in Merced County are children. Food insecurity is defined as a lack of reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.

The Blum Center at UC Merced started in 2013 and is affiliated with the Blum Center at UC Berkeley, which was founded by a gift from investment banker and UC Regent Richard C. Blum.  There are Blum Centers on several other UC campuses, including UCLA, UC Davis and UC Berkeley, the school from which Blum graduated. Each center has a slightly different focus, though all work toward the betterment of the global society.

***Cross-posted from Planting Seeds Blog***

“Women in Ag” Speaker Series

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The WAME speaker series runs all three days of the World Ag Expo, February 14-16, 2017, and is included in your expo admission cost. (CIAT/Neil Palmer, Flickr/Creative Commons)

TULARE, Calif. — College students around California are receiving a special invitation to attend this year’s World Ag Expo Speaker Series organized for all men and women involved in farming and agricultural businesses by the Women in Ag for Mentoring and Empowerment (WAME). For the most current information on the event, or to register, visit facebook.com/WAME17.

The speaker series pulls together speakers on the biggest issues facing California agriculture today, such as water rules and drought, EPA regulations, succession planning, and more. The WAME speaker series runs all three days of the World Ag Expo, February 14-16, 2017, and is included in your expo admission cost.

“We’re thrilled with this year’s lineup of speakers,” said organizer Pamela Sweeten. “You can learn about everything from grassroots lobbying to building a career in agriculture. We especially want to encourage college students to attend because there will be many networking opportunities for them as well.”

Sweeten pointed out though the series is organized by WAME, they encourage both men and women to attend.

“We’re a ‘women in ag’ group, but we’ve really designed this series to be relevant to everyone in agriculture,” she said.

The WAME speaker series is possible because of sponsorships from Garton Tractor, InsureCAL Insurance Agency, CCI Marketing, and P. Sweeten consulting.

A full schedule and list of speakers is located at: https://www.morningagclips.com/women-in-ag-speaker-series/

***Cross-posted from Morning Ag Clips***

Yolo/Solano/Sacramento Regional Agritourism Summit in Davis February 13, 2017

country roads 400The University of California Small Farm Program and UC Cooperative Extension are working with local partners to organize a Yolo/Solano/Sacramento Regional Agritourism Summit for everyone in the region involved in agritourism. The Summit will be an occasion for farmers, ranchers, county planners, the tourism community and others involved to share, learn, and plan together.

Agritourism operators, tourism professionals, county, city and state staff and officials, community organizations, agricultural organizations, tour organizers and all others who are connected to agritourism are invited to join the conversation. Presentations and discussion topics will include county regulations; marketing plans; social media and event organizing training sessions; liability; financing ideas for agritourism development; and more.

The summit was planned by a local team to best reflect the needs of the region, so will include discussions and presenters of specific relevance to agritourism development in Yolo, Solano and Sacramento Counties. The summit will be a participatory, all-day session with lunch provided.

Participants are invited to bring marketing and organizational information to display and share.

Agendas for this and other regional summits are posted on this site.

Registration: Visit http://ucanr.edu/summits2017.
Fee: A registration fee of $25 is requested, payable online or by check.
When: Monday, February 13, 2017
Where: UC ANR Building, 2801 Second Street, Davis CA 95618

More Information: Penny Leff, UCCE Agritourism Coordinator, paleff@ucdavis.edu, 530-752-7779.

2017 Out-of-School Time Nutrition Summit

Keeping Kids Healthy and Engaged When School is Out
California Summer Meal Summit Events

Out-of-school time presents a unique opportunity for community leaders to work together to support the health and development of local youth. To support this, the California Summer Meal Coalition part of the Institute for Local Government is organizing two summits in Northern and Southern California. Along with partners from the National League of Cities and the Institute for Youth Education and Families, the day will provide opportunities for learning, networking and sharing ideas focused on leveraging USDA out-of-school time nutrition programs to build healthy, connected communities when school is out.

USDA summer and after school meal programs spark meaningful collaboration by bringing together cities, counties, schools, special districts, faith and community-based organizations, law enforcement, public health and healthcare, local business, and other agencies to work towards the shared goal of a vibrant community. The summits will highlight new opportunities for programming and partnerships, engaging local leaders and youth, effective outreach, and addressing challenges.

The event is FREE. Lunch will be provided.

Northern/Central CA

January 19, 2017
10:00 am – 3:00 pm
East Bay Center for the Performing Arts
339 11th Street Richmond CA

Southern CA

January 24, 2017
9:30 am – 2:30 pm
San Antonio Regional Hospital
999 San Bernardino Road, Upland CA

To register, visit: goo.gl/mTy9CO